MAC starting 2014 with midweek splash?
The Mid-American Conference has released matchups for the 2014 football season, but not dates or times.
Fittingly, the conference that’s grown its national profile in recent years by playing mid-week conference games on national television will likely get two early marquee games on weeknights.
Sources told FOX Sports Ohio that the MAC plans to open the season with a Thursday night conference game, Ohio at Kent State, on Aug. 28, the traditional first night of the 2014 college football season. Missouri plays at Toledo in the season’s second week, and that game appears headed for prime-time, weeknight exposure as well.
The ESPN family of networks owns right of first refusal on television rights for non-conference games hosted by MAC schools. A source with knowledge of the process said discussions to play Missouri-Toledo on either Thursday Sept.4 or Friday Sept. 5 have already taken place.
Missouri’s visit to Toledo will be of interest not just because the Tigers won the SEC East and the Cotton Bowl in 2013, but because Missouri coach Gary Pinkel took that job after leaving the same job at Toledo, and because Kenton, Ohio, native Maty Mauk is Missouri’s likely starting quarterback next season. Kenton is about an hour southeast of Toledo.
Last season, Ohio University’s season opener at Louisville was moved to Sunday of college football’s opening weekend to maximize exposure; that announcement was not made until late spring. Bowling Green’s 2013 Thursday night season opener vs. Tulsa aired on ESPNU, and that’s a possible landing spot for Ohio-Kent State this season.
In 2011, Boise State — then a top 20 team — played a Friday night game at Toledo. In 2005, Ohio upset visiting Pittsburgh on a Friday night.
The MAC office has released the eight conference games each team will play in 2014 but will finalize dates and times at a later date with television in mind. Non-conference games are usually scheduled well in advance.
The MAC season in recent years has ended on the day after Thanksgiving; mid-week games generally start in early November, though a few could be earlier in the usual conference season. Among the marquee matchups that could be played on weeknights are Bowling Green at Ohio, Toledo at Northern Illinois and Northern Illinois at Ohio. The annual rivalry game between Toledo and Bowling Green has been played on a Saturday in recent years, but there’s no guarantee that will happen again.